The European Parliament and Council have reached a provisional political agreement on the Commission's proposals for common rules to promote the repair of goods for consumers. Once adopted, the new rules will introduce a new ‘right to repair' for consumers, both within and beyond the EU-based statutory warranty period (which has to be at least two years). The intention behind the ‘right to repair’ is to make it easier and more cost-effective to repair products instead of simply replacing them with new ones. The Commission said that its original proposal would save around 18 million tonnes of C02 over the course of 15 years as well as saving consumers €176 billion in not having to purchase new expensive replacement products. This would result in savings for consumers, boost the circular economy and support the objectives of sustainable consumption and of the European Green Deal by reducing waste.

New rules facilitating repair

When a product develops a defect within the warranty period, consumers will benefit from an extended legal guarantee of one year if they choose to have their products repaired.

When the legal guarantee has expired, the consumers will be able to request an easier and cheaper repair of defects in those products that must be technically repairable (such as tablets, smartphones but also washing machines, dishwashers, etc.). Manufacturers will be required to publish information about their repair services, including indicative prices of the most common repairs.  There will be options for consumers to borrow a device whilst their own is being repaired or opt for a refurbished unit as an alternative.

To boost the development of the repair market, the new rules will provide that spare parts for technically repairable goods are made available at a reasonable price; and manufacturers will be prohibited to use contractual, hardware or software related barriers to repair, such as preventing the use of second-hand, compatible and 3D-printed spare parts by independent repairers.

Practical measures to support repair

The new rules also require Member States to take at least one measure promoting repair, for example in the form of providing repair vouchers, repair funds or support to local repair initiatives. 

The new rules also provide for the setting up of a European repair platform so that consumers can find suitable repairers more easily and repairers can use it to advertise their services.

Next steps

The European Parliament and the Council will formally adopt the political agreement. Once formally adopted, the Directive will enter into force on the 20th day following its publication in the Official Journal of the EU. Member States then have two years to transpose it into national law. Being a Directive, Member States will have flexibility in how this is transposed into their national laws, meaning there are likely to be differences across the EU jurisdictions in how the right to repair will operate. Businesses will therefore need to be alive to this, as a ‘one size fits all’ approach may not be sufficient.

UK position

In 2021, the UK introduced right-to-repair rules. In introducing the rules, the UK Government stated that the aim of the rules was to increase producer responsibility, reduce energy usage and electrical waste, and enable consumers to identify the most energy efficient products on the market. The “right to repair” provides professional repairers with access to spare parts and technical information from July 2021, but manufacturers have a grace period of up to two years from the launch of the relevant product to make spare parts available.  The Government has not indicated that it currently plans to extend these rights. 

The rules apply only to certain products (dishwashers, washing machines and dryers, refrigeration appliances and televisions and other electronic displays). Notably, smartphones aren’t on the list, which is at odds with the new EU right to repair rules which do include smartphones. While the UK rules have broadly been seen as a step in the right direction, they have attracted criticism for not going far enough to achieve their stated goals. For example, making spare parts available immediately (rather than having to wait for two years) and increasing the list of products in scope to include those with a high discard rate (eg laptops, tablets and smartphones). In addition, the law does not set any cap on the price of repairs. There is therefore no regulation in place to ensure that manufacturers aren’t, in reality, making repair an unaffordable option. It remains to be seen if the UK Government will take any of these points on board, but with new rules coming into force in the EU this may apply some pressure on the Government to go further.